I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Twitter recently. The direction of my thinking on this social media platform is mostly aimed at trying to determine if it’s something I want to continue using. (As I write this, I haven’t tweeted a thing for weeks on either of the two Twitter accounts I’ve created.)
Though I haven’t come to any real firm conclusions yet, I’m beginning to feel more and more comfortable not tweeting. In the beginning, when I first stopped, I felt like I’d gone cold turkey and was inches away from clenching up and breaking out in a cold sweat. Then the days began to pass and it seemed like I was beating the beast’s hold on me. I could clearly feel its grip lessening day by day. As I write this, I have almost no urge to read what others have posted on Twitter, and I have zero desire to tweet.
I guess, looking back, I had seemingly fallen into what I’m more and more seeing as a self-destructive pattern of behavior. Because I am such a political person, I was mostly tweeting political things. (By the way, if you were to ask me today why I’m so politically inclined, I’d answer that I studied political philosophy in college—as an undergrad—and then moved on to other things in grad school, but that I’m still obsessed with politics because it is one very important way humans expressive themselves collectively, and there is nothing more fascinating than human expression.)
So I am very progressive and I was using Twitter to declare my version of Holy War on regressives. (I won’t refer to them as “conservatives” because they aren’t trying to conserve anything.) In fact, they want to take us back to a time when WASPs effectively owned the country because they suffer from a kind of white angst. Of course, there’s great irony in the fact that political regressives feel this way since they think America suffers from what they call a “culture of entitlement,” meaning that too many feel like government owes them something. At the same time, they want the rest of us to unquestioningly recognize their preeminence and to behave appropriately subservient. If that isn’t acting privileged and entitled, then I don’t know what is.
Back when I was still tweeting about politics, I had a few favored individuals I liked to seek out and clash with on a daily basis. I began to realize, though, that these Twitter wars weren’t helping me to feel better or victorious or good about myself and what I was becoming. In fact, the more I engaged in these skirmishes, the more spite and anger I experienced. A kind of red-face rage began to fill me, and I started feeling disgust with both those I was tweeting against as well as myself. Despite the fact that I often “won” these Twitter conflicts, I didn’t feel like a winner. I felt hateful, mean, and petty.
I really feel so much calmer now that I’ve walked away from Twitter and have stopped tweeting nasty things to those I disagree with. I like to think of myself as someone who eschews violence. But there is more than one way to attack a person. One can pick up a weapon and inflict physical pain, or one can login to one’s Twitter account and send out hurtful messages which leave ugly scars that are invisible to the naked eye.
The self-reflection I’ve been doing mirrors the self-reflection our nation will eventually have to engage in once it moves past this moment of anger and brutal tribalism. We will have to come to terms with how we’ve treated our political opponents. This reckoning is likely to be painful. It is likely to be instructive as well. Let’s hope our nation learns an important lesson from this difficult historical moment.